CUNY Getting Ready to Launch Major New Online Education Initiative!

Dear Commons Community,

The City University of New York could offer hundreds of fully online programs by 2030, according to the public higher education system’s strategic plan released Wednesday.

CUNY set a goal to offer 287 online certificates and degrees in the next several years for students who prefer flexible options because of their responsibilities to family or jobs, or distance from physical campuses. If successful in that aim, the expansion would mark a seismic shift for CUNY since students returned to campus following pandemic-era school closures. In 2021, there were only 82 programs students could altogether complete online, university data show.

“The prosperity of New York and the legendary cutting-edge talent of CUNY are intertwined,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez in a statement.

“Moving forward, it is imperative that we ensure the University’s ability to meet the evolving needs of students and employers across the region.”

The virtual programs were just one prong of a full seven-year, systemwide plan to increase career opportunities, student services and research that benefits the public. The process was led by a steering committee that convened town halls and other sessions over 18 months.

CUNY plans to add 30 online degrees and certificates across 20 campuses over the next year, based in part on a market analysis of its programs finished in December. Faculty training programs and technology infrastructure are also being made available.

The faculty union at CUNY has raised concerns.

“We are still learning about this initiative,” Penny Lewis, secretary of the Professional Staff Congress, wrote in the union newspaper last month. “But what we do know so far has given us cause for alarm.”  Lewis said it seems “extremely likely” that a large online initiative would take time and resources away from current courses and faculty. She also noted that CUNY already offers the School of Professional Studies, which specializes in online degree programs.

“We don’t want CUNY to approach the ‘degree mill’ status to which some online programs have sunk across the country,” Lewis wrote.

The union has already filed charges with the Public Employment Relations Board, a union spokesperson confirmed, as instructional design work performed by union members would be outsourced under a nearly $8 million contract approved this spring.

Some faculty at CUNY were teaching online in the late 1990s.  This initiative was a long time in coming.  We hope it is implemented successfully and gracefully!


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